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Monday, 24 May 2010
Page: 3678

Ms RISHWORTH (1:52 PM) —I am very pleased to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011 and cognate bills. The budget that the Treasurer presented to this House was a budget for its time. The budget before us is a responsible budget, a budget that is in the national interest. The government acknowledges that families still need help, but the budget puts a priority on strengthening the economy and securing sustainable growth into the future. This budget is indicative of the government’s response to the global financial crisis, a crisis that Australia avoided due to both the responsible, decisive fiscal policy of the Rudd Labor government and the determination of the Australian people who pulled together to keep people in jobs.

This budget builds on the strong foundation developed by the government in previous budgets. It converts Australia’s success during the global recession into a stronger, more secure economy for working families. It will halve peak debt, bringing the budget back into the black in three years. This is three years earlier than expected and ahead of every major advanced economy. One cannot and should not underestimate this achievement. Decisive action now, as also occurred during the global financial crisis, will ensure the future prosperity of Australia and secure the economy and the financial security of the Australian people, including many families in my electorate of Kingston. The strong position of the nation’s economy ensures that the people of the southern suburbs of Adelaide will be better positioned than people in many other places around the developed world to take advantage of the opportunities ahead. The Rudd Labor government believes in the fortitude and ability of the Australian people, and this budget represents its commitment to these people by ensuring responsible economic management, halving peak debt and securing future growth.

Those opposite have opposed the government’s action to support jobs during the global financial crisis, and there is no doubt that they will now oppose its actions to keep the government finances strong. But this budget does have significant things for the people in my electorate, and the historic health and hospital reform is especially significant to people in the southern suburbs of Adelaide. The residents of southern Adelaide deserve to live in a community where they are confident about the provision of health services to their loved ones. The Rudd government’s ongoing commitment to health will go a long way towards achieving this goal.

The government’s planned reform represents the most significant reform to Australia’s health and hospital system since the introduction of Medicare. The government is investing $7.3 billion over five years, and this is an enormous commitment to our health and hospital system. The 2010-11 budget delivers a $2.2 billion package investing in the National Health and Hospitals Network over four years. This funding will have a genuinely positive impact on health providers within my electorate. Hospitals such as Flinders Medical Centre and Noarlunga Hospital will be able to provide a better level of care for the people in our local area. This spending is vital to improving the healthcare system for all Australians and also vital to my local constituents.

This budget reflects the Rudd government’s commitment to health reform and its ongoing commitment to health within Australia. The $417 million Medicare Locals program is a commitment to ensure that it will be easier for people in Kingston and around the country to see a doctor at any time, day or night. This investment will improve after-hours access to GP and primary care services. This is a significant investment in the ongoing health and wellbeing of the elderly, parents and young people in my electorate, ensuring that all Australians have access to high-quality and affordable after-hours services. This builds on the Rudd government’s commitment to making sure that after-hours GP services are provided. In my electorate alone, a number of different grants have already been announced to ensure that GP services are available after hours. Services are already being made available in Morphettville, Huntfield Heights, Sheidow Park, Aldinga and Seaford. The further improvements to after-hours services will be widely welcomed in my local area, because people know that getting to see a GP can be difficult at the best of times.

The opposition—and, indeed, the opposition leader—have indicated that they do not believe that there is a problem out there in the provision of GP services. My message to the opposition leader is that in outer metropolitan Adelaide there is a problem with getting to see a GP. I hear regularly from my constituents that there is a shortage. They often wait up to three or four weeks just to get an appointment with a GP. It is disappointing that the opposition leader, who is a former Minister for Health and Ageing, refuses to acknowledge that there is a real crisis in accessing medical services and that the private sector has not filled all the gaps in outer metropolitan Adelaide.

The budget also outlines the government’s commitment to provide up to $950 million to increase the capacity of emergency departments and improve the time line for treatment. This has also been widely welcomed by my constituents in Kingston. The Rudd government is committed to a four-hour emergency department target. This will require patients to be admitted and then either referred or treated and discharged within four hours. This is an achievable goal, and we believe that Australians ought to be able to see a doctor wherever and whenever they need one. This will ensure that every Australian has access to the advice they deserve.

As the Minister for Health and Ageing has regularly noted, nurses are the cornerstone of any effective health system. The Rudd government acknowledges the vital role that these individuals play in the provision of health care to real working Australians and is therefore committed to investing $535 million for additional training and support to Australian nurses. Nurses play a critical role in our health system, and the Rudd government is dedicated to ongoing support of these individuals.

I draw the attention of the House to the controversial issue the opposition is opposing—that is, the issue of GP superclinics. GP superclinics are an effective and necessary addition to the health field within Australia. The government has dedicated $355 million over three years to building more of these clinics across the country. We are now seeing clinics being developed in my electorate of Kingston in the form of the Noarlunga GP Super Clinic, due to be completed this year. This will provide an important service by incorporating doctors and other allied health professionals in one location. Such clinics take the pressure off the hospital system, and we have seen this in evidence with the state government provided GP Plus services. Since becoming operational, the one in Aldinga in my electorate has seen a decrease of 13 per cent in presentations to the accident and emergency clinic, with residents in Aldinga instead presenting at the GP Plus centre.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.